Luton doiminated the early exchanges
Diallo goal changed the tie
Mowbray unlikely to sit on his lead
Advantage Mackems at the Kenny
Sunderland are favourites to progress to Wembley on Tuesday night having come from behind to beat Luton 2-1 at The Stadium Of Light.
The game was turned on its head by an Amad Diallo free-kick that levelled the score just before half-time, with Luton having taken the lead early through Elijah Adebayo and then pressing Sunderland so effectively that they were unable to get a footing in the game,
Diallo's curling left-foot strike changed that, and the second-half Trai Hume header that made it 2-1 was a fair reflection of Tony Mowbray's side's growing dominance in the game.
Despite their early good showing, Luton were totally outclassed in the second half and will have come away from the game relieved that the deficit was only a solitary goal, which would have been an unthinkable outcome after half an hour.
There were a few key performers for Sunderland, beyond Diallo's obvious impact. Patrick Roberts was an effective if makeshift right wing-back, while Pierre Ekwah dominated midfield and Jack Clarke came to life on the left hand side in the final third of the game including the assist for Hume's goal.
Rob Edwards will see the first-half as evidence that his side can adopt a shape out of possession that stops the diminuitive Black Cats from causing them issues in advanced areas, and Luton were close to doubling their lead through an Adebayo shot that was deflected over.
This one is delicately poised and, although recency bias means that Sunderland's late show sticks clearest in the memory, a one goal deficit isn't insurmountable for the odds-on Hatters.
First goal not decisive
Luton have opened the scoring in all three of their meetings with Sunderland this season but have failed to win a single one (D2 L1), and their first leg defeat ended their 14-game unbeaten run (W8 D6).
The Hatters haven't lost consecutive matches in all competitions since a run of three in August 2022.
Sunderland have won just one of their seven away games in the Football League play-offs (D2 L4), beating Newcastle United 2-0 in 1989-90.
The good news for Sunderland fans is that they have lost just one of their last 14 meetings with Luton in all competitions (W8 D5), a 3-0 loss in the League Cup in August 2007.
BTTS the best bet
In normal circumstances we would maybe expect the leading away side to try to sit on their lead rather than attempting to force the issue at the other end, but given Sunderland's injury woes it's hard not to see Mowbray setting his side up to play their natural game and attack where possible.
It was so obvious in the second-half of the first leg that their best way of progressing through this tie is by getting Clarke, Diallo, Roberts and Alex Pritchard on the ball in advanced areas.
It would be a shock if Sunderland didn't look to take the game to their hosts rather than relying on a backline ravaged by injury to keep Luton at bay.
The motivation to attack is clear for the home side, needing at least a win of any kind to keep the tie alive beyond 90 minutes, and they should have some joy at home if Sunderland do commit numbers forward.
Both Teams To Score is 9/10 and that looks the way to play this game with the tie delicately poised and too close to call.